What is a parent or student to do?
I believe the best way to pay less for college is to make yourself a smart consumer of a college education. Take steps now to educate yourself on the costs of various schools as well as what your financial aid opportunities really are. To do that, follow these two blogs.
The College Solution
The College Solution is a blog produced by professional journalist and nationally recognized college planning expert, Lynn O’Shaughnessy. Lynn also has a book by the same name which you can order on her website as well as an on-line class for parents looking to learn more about how to pay less for college.
Every week Lynn posts content on how to make yourself a “smarter shopper” when it comes to college. She is not only a recognized expert in how to pay for college, she is a mother of two college graduates. That makes her a college planning expert by just about any measure.
If you spend 10 minutes on her blog each week for the remainder of the school year, you will know more about how to pay for college than most of the college planning experts and financial advisors out there – except me, of course.
I have read Lynn’s book, The College Solution, and taken her class. I strongly recommend both. In fact, I recently signed up for it again just to see if there is anything new that I might have missed over the summer. If you thought my 75 minute Pay Less for College workshop was helpful, you will be blown away with what Lynn will teach you over the course of 4-weeks.
DIY College Rankings
Michelle Kretzschmar publishes the blog, DIY College Rankings. A self-described “data geek”, Michelle is an expert at analyzing the mountains of college data and has consolidated it onto an easy-to-use spreadsheet that you can order from her.
Her college rankings spreadsheet is a great way to search for colleges that may be a good financial and academic fit for your student, especially if you have specific criteria you are seeking. The DIY College Ranking Spreadsheet can save you a ton of time and money in your college search process.
For example, if you want to know which of the schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin have a 4-year graduation rate of 75% or better, accept 50% or more of the students who apply AND offer merit-based aid, you will find it here. FYI, it’s a short list.
Michelle also offers an on-line class to help parents understand how to use her spreadsheet to its best. Her spreadsheet is the only resource I know of that allows you to slice and dice all the stats in so many different ways. If you are looking to leverage your student’s ACT scores or you want to create a list of schools that offer the most merit-based financial aid or have the best graduation rates, this is the place to start your search. The beauty of the spreadsheet is that you can combine your various parameters to come up with a short list that meets your needs.
If you go to her website and click the Resources tab, you will find profiles of various schools within each state. Here is one for Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, MN. Each profile contains key information such as graduation rates, cost of attendance figures, and a link to the school’s net price calculator.
Make yourself a smart college shopper in just 10 minutes a day
If you really want to pay less for college, you will need to become what Lynn O’Shaughnessy calls a “smart college shopper”. Subscribe to the two blogs above. Devote just 5 minutes a day to each from now until the end of the school year, and you would become a very smart college shopper.
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